Attorneys general discuss border issues, drug trafficking
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June 16, 2009 - 6:50 PM

Please, no jaywalking near the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

More than half of America's state attorneys general are gathering at the Colorado Springs conference center this week for weighty discussions of drug trafficking and cybercrime, plus some sightseeing.

Colorado's attorney general, John Suthers, welcomed his counterparts from 29 other states and territories to his hometown on Tuesday, pointing out the city's scenic attractions and noting that he was not raised in one of the fancy houses near the resort but grew up close enough to have mowed lawns in the neighborhood.

Day One of the gathering featured a discussion of U.S.-Mexico border issues, mainly the threat posed by Mexican drug-smuggling gangs.

According to Justice Department data presented by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Colorado Springs is one of 230 American cities in 49 states that have reported infiltration by the Mexican drug gangs. Keith Mines, director of the narcotics affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, described Ciudad Juarez, at the southern end of Interstate 25, as the "epicenter of violence" for the drug gangs and expressed concern that drug-related killings were spilling over the border.

Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told the group that about 6,000 drug-related killings were reported in Mexico in 2008 and said such deaths were on the rise in the United States. Harriet Babbitt, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, reported 300 kidnappings in Phoenix attributed to drug gangs.

Panelists' estimates of the Mexican drug gangs' annual sales in the United States ranged from $15 billion to $40 billion. The money goes back to Mexico in cash and guns, both of which are used to undermine the rule of law in Mexico.

To counter the colossal bankroll placed in the narcotraffickers' hands by Americans' appetite for illegal drugs, the Mexican and American governments launched the Merida initiative, a 2007 accord in which Mexico pledged greater cooperation with the United States on drug enforcement matters in exchange for an infusion of American equipment, training and technical assistance. The Mexican government has traditionally regarded U.S. outreach as interference in its internal affairs, and Babbitt described its willingness to cooperate as "brand new but very shallow."

The conference runs through Thursday. ... tates.html